It’s not every day that you find a SpongeBob villain hot. But it’s also not every day that a ripped, masked crusader is the man the CDC would consider to be a safe sexual partner in the pandemic.
I am, of course, talking about Man Ray, an archnemesis of geezer superheroes Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. He’s a spoof on Aquaman’s antagonist Black Manta, and his name is a play on manta ray and the famous artist.
More importantly, he’s considered the supervillain of Bikini Bottom, but I’d let him terrorize my bottom any day of the week. (Sorry, Mom!) Just look at him all caked (and covered) up in a red latex bodysuit with matching blue boots, gloves and face mask.
Man Ray is the masked man of my pandemic dreams. The safe-sex icon who deserves love and knows the importance of rubber protection. And you can bet his big blue bulbous mask stays on in the fantasy. Sorry, Mandalorian.
Earlier this week, a Twitter user by the name of @candycowb0y tweeted out an urgent reminder: “bruh he” — that’d be Mr. Man Ray — “was so fine.”
Daily Show correspondent (and OG Short King) Jaboukie Young-White riffed in a now-deleted tweet (a signature move) that Man Ray is a submissive bottom. “He was a SUB sub with that chastity belt on out in PUBLIC letting the mens know he was just [a] hole,” he tweeted. Man Ray walks around wearing a thick gold belt, and I just need to know where to find the key to his… heart.
One possible keyholder is Alison Williams, a comedy writer in New York. She’s a longtime simp for Man Ray, even rewatching SpongeBob in quarantine. “Man Ray is a total bad boy but seems like he has a soft side, which makes him even hotter in my opinion,” she said. Williams admits, however, that her barometer for what makes an underwater hunk might be a bit skewed: “I think I’ve also been in my apartment for too long.”
Others are only now learning of Man Ray’s status as a pandemic hottie. “I realized Man Ray was hot like… yesterday,” says Sarah Tudzin, of the tenderpunk band Illuminati Hotties. It occurred to her recently “how misunderstood our cartoon villains are.”
Man Ray gets a bad edit on SpongeBob for being content in who he is. Just like Squidward, he’s a male character whose confidence in his identity and self-presentation is mislabeled as arrogance. Squidward just wants to enjoy his clarinet and do dance classes. Similarly, Man Ray clearly enjoys working out and has the confidence to wear a speedo and heeled boots in public.
We’re told to believe that Man Ray is a menace to Bikini Bottom, aggressively tormenting SpongeBob and Patrick Starr. Really, it’s the other way around. In Man Ray’s debut episode, “Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy III,” Patrick and SpongeBob capture the villain trying to destroy their city by luring him into a cell with tartar sauce. It’s his kryptonite. Really, though, who among us has not been lured by a fish-and-chip basket?
Patrick and SpongeBob proceed to fasten a tickle belt to Man Ray, zapping him every time he has an outburst. You’ll find no kink-shaming here.
Sure, Man Ray might want to rule over Bikini Bottom. But in a town where Mr. Krabs is a capitalist restaurateur and SpongeBob is an impulsive, unreliable citizen, maybe it’s time for some structural change. And Man Ray certainly knows the importance of wearing PPE. “As we all grow up, the misunderstandings that a childhood villain faces are actually far more relatable than our flaw-free childhood heroes,” Tudzin says.
Fortunately, the lords of Bikini Bottom make up for their mistreatment of Man Ray by offering us a peek into his not-so-sleek side. In one episode, he’s caught at the bathroom mirror, exposing his hairy, sculpted chest. There’s also another moment when he sports a vacation look: a Hawaiian shirt and bright green (cuffed!) shorts.
“Responsible daddy Man Ray” is what we should be calling him, and Tudzin can’t wait to take him on a socially distanced date. “Drinks-at-the-park kind of hang. But we all know what the end goal is here: finding out what’s behind that horrific rubbery mask of his,” Tudzin says.
Perhaps, though, Man Ray’s biggest appeal is his sex status hasn’t gone to his head — because he doesn’t have one. At the end of his debut episode, Man Ray finally removes his helmet to reveal no features above his neck. Without a mouth, nose or likely any respiratory system, it’d be hard for him to pass on the coronavirus. “I’m convinced he can’t actually contract COVID, and that makes him the perfect COVID-safe beau,” Williams says. “So, Man Ray, if you read this story, I’m here.”